Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's [Images] projection of himself as a saviour of Pakistan is 'grossly misleading' as terrorist and extremist groups have become more lethal and better networked in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the last eight years of his rule, says a new book.
The book, The General and Jihad, by the Observer Research Foundation, a think-tank, points out President Musharraf's 'duplicity' in dealing with terrorism, his policy of keeping the jihadi option alive as a strategic tool and exploiting the presence of jihadi terrorists in Pakistan to project himself as a saviour of the country.
"No other country in the world has spawned and supported as many extremist and terrorist groups as Pakistan. The size of the jihadi population could be gauged from one simple fact that Karachi alone has as many as 30 terrorist groups. Many of these groups are sectarian in nature, some purely criminal while others are aligned with Al Qaeda [Images] and the Taliban; all of them, however, boast of links with ISI," the book says.
The book says that Gen Musharraf had claimed time and again that he had been trying to put these jihadi groups in check and had launched several campaigns to rid Pakistan of terrorists.
"Nothing can be more misleading," says the book.
Documenting Pakistan's role in the US-led global War on Terror, the book points out that the campaign had only created more terrorist groups in Pakistan that were more lethal, better armed and networked before September 11, 2001.
The book says that Musharraf, since 1999, had not only allowed various religious extremist and terrorist organisations to set up offices in different parts of Pakistan but had also promoted establishment of madrassas, which are increasingly becoming centres of fundamentalism.
"In 1971, there were 900 such madrassas in Pakistan. Today these exceed 9,500. In fact, unregistered madrassas number close to 50,000. Musharraf's plan is to synergise the madrassas, run by fundamentalists, with Mujahideen groups to unleash a network of subversion and terror to blackmail the global community in supporting Pakistan economically and strategically," says the book.
The book points out that it was this religious-military-terror nexus that masterminded the Kandahar hijacking of December 1999, barely two months after his coup.
"The hijacking of IC-814 Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu was not an isolated incident, but was part of a carefully worked out strategy to raise the level of proxy war against India."
Three of the hostages, which the ISI wanted, were Maulana Masood Azhar, Syed Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, a serial killer of Srinagar [Images]. All three were in Indian jails for indulging in subversive activities.
The book says Musharraf's direct or indirect role in the IC 814 hijacking was not secret either. There were enough clues to expose Pakistan's hand in the hijacking. Of the five hijackers, four were from Pakistan. These hijackers were constantly in touch with the Pakistan Army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
To facilitate communication, Pakistani intelligence officers in Kathmandu had given them a satellite phone. In fact, ISI and Army officers in Kathmandu had planned the entire operation.
The book says that President Musharraf, within two months of taking over, allowed terrorists operating from his homeland to hijack an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu and helped create one of the most dreaded terrorist groups, Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The fact that Jaish leader Maulana Masood Azhar was allowed to hold a press conference in the Karachi Press Club to announce 'jihad' against India, gave a clear indication of the support he had from the General's Army and intelligence wing.
Besides Azhar, another terrorist set free in exchange for hostages was Syed Omar Sheikh who, two years later, was instrumental in wiring $100,000 to Muhammad Atta, the leader of the suicide bombers who attacked the World Trade Center [Images] on September 11.
JeM was only part of the overall Kashmir Plan drawn up by General Musharraf who was forced to withdraw from Kargil early 1999. He promoted another terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, with equal munificence.
Both JeM and LeT were established to create mayhem in Kashmir and force India to come to the discussion table with Pakistan.
Two other outfits promoted and supported by the Musharraf regime were Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Saheba, both promised to rid kafirs (infidels) from the Pakistani society. They were rabidly anti-Shia and non-Muslim communities. These groups had a hidden agenda. They recruited men for JeM and LeT under the pretext of running religious schools.
"There is mounting evidence that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, despite being officially banned, had taken the responsibility of helping the fleeing Al Qaeda members regroup in Pakistan -- a fact that only confirms the irrefutable link between these groups and the military-intelligence establishment headed by President Musharraf," according to the book.
The regularity with which Pakistan security forces have, since September 11, 2001, produced some of the top Al Qaeda leaders from Karachi and other towns, proved the existence of a terror network that has been able to exploit a colluding establishment and a huge support base of the religious groups that has grown quite rapidly, specially after President Musharraf joined the US-led War on Terrorism.
The author documents how terrorist groups like grew rapidly during the Musharraf regime. Within weeks of its launch, JeM had a full-fledged training camp running. Recruitment centres opened up in every major city across Pakistan.
JeM activists set up fund collection centres in markets and other public places. Placards and banners said the money was meant for 'liberating' Kashmir. JeM recruits received best of the commando training. They had most modern weapons and communication equipment.
The book cites evidence that Musharraf, despite September 11 and Operation Enduring Freedom and countless speeches, had quietly set up safe houses for the fleeing Al Qaeda and the Taliban terrorists and their leaders inside Pakistan.
According to the book, Musharraf's crackdown on jihadi groups was only for the consumption of the media and the public. In reality, he had no intention to ban terrorist organisations or their activities in Pakistan.
"This is clearly evident from the ever-rising level of contributions these organisations have been drawing, especially after Musharraf's Interior Ministry had banned collection of donations by terrorist organisations."